2Sam. 11: 1 - 15

Two weeks ago, the Psalms confronted us with the questions:

This evoked our own question: what does it mean, to have clean hands and a pure heart? Today's reading shows that David definitely had neither clean hands, for they were stained bloodier than MacBeth's wife's, nor a pure heart, for his sexual lust is here most obvious, running rampant over his better judgment.

You shall not murder and You shall not commit adultery (Exo. 20: 13) stand together; David violated them in reverse order, having first broken the later you shall not covet your neighbor's wife (20: 14). hree out of ten in one episode. Some record. Yet, in spite of all this evidence against him, David received God's commendation, as declared in 1Kings (for example). The Bible does, truly, present us with a huge conundrum. Apparently, if one is a "David", it is OK with God if you break the Commandments. The crucial question, then, is: what is a "David"? How does one become a "David"?

Psalm 14

The Apostle Paul constructed an entire thesis (Romans) based on these verses. Is this the description of a "David"?

Yes, it certainly is. When we read David's story, these two Psalms and Paul's initial argument, we find little that might be considered as "walk[ing] before [God]... wholeheartedly and with uprightness" (1Ki. 9: 4) and "doing only what was right in [God's] sight." (1Ki. 14: 8) And yet that is God's own testimony concerning David. It is a mystery; it does not make sense to us.

David must certainly have been aware that he was indicting himself when he composed these words; he was no fool. He knew what he was, and he admitted it, even to his own detriment, as he did to Nathan (2Sam. 12: 13). David was, for all his other faults, a man of integrity, an honest person. And here, I think, we discover part of what a "David" is.

The two versions of v.1 indicate that the atheist and agnostic are not the only impious fools, for only a person who believes in God could say: "God does not care."(1) Both remarks reveal a person of no understanding, one who is not mindful of God. But we know that David certainly did believe in YHWH, and was fully confident of God's care. So we discover part 2 of a "David".

Again, David speaks of himself when he advises: You may set at naught the counsel of the lowly (6). An honest person's acknowledgement of being lowly is not self-denigration, but a reality-check. For those who invoke the LORD (4), the comparison is not with other people, but relative to God. Then, from this perspective, a [person] of understanding can only say:

The poet has led us to discover part 3, the last and most critical aspect: utter helplessness by oneself; utter dependence upon God.

"Zion" is an oblique reference to YHWH, the only source of hope such as the Psalmist expresses. But in the concluding lines, hopefulness is replaced with assertion and assurance: trust in God. Discovery of part 4, perhaps, or a restatement of part 3. Now you know what a "David" is in God's eyes.

Eph. 3: 14 - 21
Paul's Greek-trained mind is much in evidence throughout his letters, proceeding by logical steps, building one idea on top of the prior one. We see it here: With this in mind, then, (14) which refers to the preceding paragraph (1-13), the basis and context of his words which follow. As we review that material, we find four main thoughts.

First, the concept of God's secret purpose of Christ (4). In other places, the Apostle speaks of a "mystery". Now we sophisticated, erudite moderns disparage mysteries(2) and disdain secrets (except those in our own closets). The two concepts are stumbling-blocks for us, all the more so since we fail to recognize that we have constructed the impediments, the results of our own sophisticated, erudite, modern mindset. We want everything to be black on white, straight-forward: logically, rationally, scientifically explainable.

But God, the Spirit, faith, are all mysteries, having multitudinous secrets that the modern, scientific mind cannot apprehend. So what shall we do? Become somehow uneducated? No, that would not help at all. Rather, we need to become better educated by beginning to believe in faith; that is, to believe-- to know-- that faith is a reality; that we do have a spiritual self which is the avenue of contact with the mysterious and the secret.

Second, Paul expounds on one of the secrets; one which, as we found last week, the Church (and so the world in general) has not yet understood or accepted: that through the gospel the Gentiles are joint heirs with the Jews, part of the same body, sharers together in the promise made in Christ Jesus. (6) Note that, (a) for the Jews, this is all in the present tense; that is, it already belongs to them; and (b) the Gentiles (you and I) are only now (since the time of Christ) being brought in to share this secret mystery.

Third, that all of This accords with [God's] age-long purpose, which [God] accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord (11). The union of Jew and Gentile is not only God's eternal purpose, but it has been accomplished by God in Jesus Christ. So why does the Church continue to think, speak and act contrary to God's express purpose and consummated desire with regard to our unity with the Jews in Christ Jesus our Lord?(3)

Fourth, in [Christ Jesus our Lord] we have freedom of access to God, with the confidence born of trust in [God]. (12) Note here that, although our freedom of access to God has been provided to us by Christ, our confidence in this (and in all other aspects of our relationship to God) is born of trust in [God].

Trust has been (and remains) a difficult issue in my life, and I suspect that I am not alone. I think that trust is a major issue in the Church, as evidenced by all the conflicts, disputes and divisions among and between Christians. Beloved, this ought not to be. It follows, logically, that a primary mission of the preachers, teachers and leaders is to build trust-- in God, first, for on that rock alone can real trust between persons be built.

In today's reading, based on those secret mysteries, the Apostle goes on to pray(4) that out of the treasures of [the Lord's] glory [God] may grant you inward strength and power through [the Holy] Spirit (16). To my mind, these words relate to the topic of trust, both as to its source and the results that issue therefrom.

It is to this deep, trusting level of belief that Paul refers when praying that through faith Christ may dwell in your hearts in love. (17) But the enormous, shameful lack of love within the Church(5)

indicates that Christ is not dwelling in every church member's heart.

With deep roots and firm foundations (again, confident trust in God) may you, in company with all God's people (including especially the Jews), be strong to grasp what is the [totality] of Christ's love, and to know it, though it is beyond knowledge. (17-19) Here we are again, back to the secrets and mysteries which our human knowledge cannot deal with, since to know them, one must first have complete trust in God. What person could ever have so much trust? Consider Paul, and David.

John 6: 1 - 21

[1 - 15, suggested]
It was near the time of Passover, the great Jewish festival. (4) John, in his descriptive portions, does not usually waste too many words. So why did he write this line? Just to let us know what time of year it was? How is that significant to the story? Could it not as well have occurred in the summer or autumn?

Today's reading (if shortened as suggested) relates one miracle, a mystery. Another of God's secrets as far as we know, for our sophisticated, erudite minds cannot figure out how it was done, and so we argue whether or not it took place at all. And thereby reveal the stumbling-block that we have created; the notion that this story concerns real people, real bread and fish.

Was John writing historical narrative here? Or might he possibly be telling us a parable? Is Jesus the only one permitted by the Church to tell fictions in order to convey some teaching, some truth? As Christians, we believe that Christ is our Passover (1Cor. 5: 7), the Church's great Jewish festival. John, in v.4, is urging us to think, not in terms of days and seasons, but in terms of passion and crucifixion. [Jesus] said this to test [Philip]; (6) and John writes it to test us. The disciple-- and we, as well-- cdannot possibly comprehend how so little food can feed so many, because we are thinking in material terms. But Jesus himself knew what he meant to do (6), because Jesus was not thinking in terms of barley loaves and dried fish, but in terms of Passover.

Jesus said, 'Make the people sit down.' (10) This is necessary, for as long as people-- you and I-- try to stand on our own capabilities and strengths, our own knowledge and faith, we cannot feed ourselves-- at least, not with spiritual nourishment. We must sit down and become inert, passive, expectant, receptive. Then, in that state of dependency, wait for God in Christ Jesus to "feed" us, to provide the nurture that sustains our lives. The message of the Gospel repeats those above: we must each become a "David", learning to trust God implicitly and explicitly, professing:

  • [We] all are unfaithfu altogether corrupt;
    but the LORD is [my] refuge.

1. 1 The statement shows that they do not believe the God they believe in.

2. 2 Except for Sherlock Holmes, Ellery Queen, Father Brown and company.

3. 3 I am not considering here the Jews' side of this, only ours. Perhaps their attitude might change if the Church changed its attitude and ways toward them?

4. 4 For us as well as the Ephesians.

5. 5 Remember the 1John readings a few weeks ago?

(comments to Phil at ENAPXH@aol.com )